The UK Government announced yesterday that the Royal Navy will escort British-flagged ships passing through the Strait of Hormuz.
In a statement the Government said: “Freedom of navigation is crucial for the global trading system and world economy, and we will do all we can to defend it. The Department for Transport has therefore updated its advice to confirm that the Royal Navy has been tasked to accompany British-flagged ships through the Strait of Hormuz, either individually or in groups, should sufficient notice be given of their passage.”
According to the Ministry of Defence, the type-23 frigate HMS Montrose has already escorted two merchant vessels travelling together through the Strait. The type-45 destroyer, HMS Duncan, is expected to arrive in the area next week and ensure a constant naval presence for the UK in the Gulf.
This announcement comes amid growing tensions with Iran in the Gulf following the seizure of the British-flagged tanker, Stena Impero, by Iran last Friday. The decision to provide a military escort to merchant shipping does not reflect a change of policy under new Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as the UK Government has reportedly been working on the plan for days.
The Government has been trying to secure the release of the detained Stena Impero tanker and its crew, while “de-escalating current tensions” with Iran, according to Prime Minister Johnson’s spokesperson. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani suggested earlier this week that the Stena Impero could be released in exchange for the Grace 1 Iranian oil tanker, which was seized earlier this month by the Royal Navy off the coast of Gibraltar as it was carrying Iranian oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions.
The UK proposed the creation of a European-led maritime protection mission earlier this week, but despite Germany and France supporting calls for improving maritime security in the Gulf, they have yet to commit to providing any military assets.